MSM 244: Just a second . . .

Presented in collaboration with the Association for Middle Level Education.


Jokes You Can Use:


Did you hear about the guy who died after creating an enormous spreadsheet? He Excelled himself.


An elderly couple is beginning to notice that neither of them seem to be able to remember things as well as they used to. So, they go to see their doctor, who explains that there is nothing really wrong with, just typical memory loss associated with old age. He suggests that they each get notebooks and write notes to themselves to help remember things. The couple goes home and that evening while watching T.V. the man gets up and heads for the kitchen. His wife asks if he can bring her some ice cream when he returns. He says he will, and she says he should write it down. “I’m just going to the kitchen, I’ll remember.” “Well, I want that with nuts, too.” “O.K. he says ice cream with nuts.” She asks again if he’s going to write it down. “No, I’m just going to the kitchen.” “And a Cherry on the top?” He agrees and turns toward the kitchen again and she asks again about writing it down. Now the old man is angry, “Look, old lady I’m not senile, I can remember ice cream with nuts and a cherry on top.” He goes in the kitchen for 10 minutes and when he returns he sets a plate of bacon and eggs in front of his wife. She looks up and says, “Honey, you forgot my toast.”


TEACHER: What is the chemical formula for water?


TEACHER: What are you talking about?

SARAH: Yesterday you said its H to O!


Her husband had been slipping in and out of a coma for several months yet she stayed by his bedside every single day. When he came to, he motioned for her to come nearer. As she sat by him, he said, “You know what? You have been with me all through the bad times. When I got fired, you were there to support me. When my business fell, you were there. When I got shot, you were by my side. When we lost the house, you gave me support. When my health started failing, you were still by my side. Well, now that I think about it, I think you bring me bad luck!



What is a second?

How long is a second? Who decided what a second is? How did people agree that a second is a second?

Hand Gestures

Many times we tend to use our hands to explain our needs and thoughts. The same hand gesture may mean something quite nasty and offensive to a person from a different cultural background. Hand gestures are a very important part of the body language gestures. In this article we shall understand what are hand gestures.


The Etch-a-Sketch

Middle School Science Minute

by Dave Bydlowski (k12science or





Each year the National Science Teachers Association announces the outstanding science trade books from grades K-12.  This list includes books published in 2012.  This is the second in a series of podcasts that will look at the best books for grades 6 – 8.


The books included in this podcast are:

1.  Book of Blood by HP Newquist

2.  Invincible Microbe by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank

3.  Sneed B. Collard III’s Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards by Sneed B. Collard III



Also wanted to share a couple of comments regarding the last show:

1.  A great place for free textbooks is:

They produce free texts that can be used on computers, kindles, iPads, other tablets, etc.  Their books geared to middle and high school.

2.  Regarding funding of the Common Core.  The House has talked about not funding anything for MDE regarding Common Core.  But it is far from reality.  The House must propose its budget, then the Senate, their budget, then a team of 6 comes together to finalize the budget, from the two plans.  It does not have anything to do with districts funding the common core, only MDE.


From the Twitterverse:

*Matt Gomez ‏@mattBgomez 53m

RT @Robitaille2011: Inquiry-based teaching is not daunting. Just do it…  #satchat

* Kyle Calderwood ‏@kcalderw 3h

8 Useful Apps for Working on Video Projects on iPad  #njed #edtech #ipaded

* Chris Sousa ‏@csousanh 3h

MT“@imcguy: Product placements in standardized tests? Really? –Marketing a Test that Markets to Students #edchat

* Mental Floss ‏@mental_floss 4h

What 11 Pairs of Eyeballs Watching a Movie Looks Like —

* In-finity Education ‏@Infeducation 8h

RT @Ideas_Factory: Useful➡The Teacher’s Guide To Pinterest

* Scott McLeod ‏@mcleod 8m

Digital Citizenship Goals in Education

* Colette Cassinelli ‏@ccassinelli 23m

HS Idea: Have an #edcamp style faculty mtgs – tchrs choose school topics sessions to attend led by tchrs & document conversations #cpchat

* Joe Mazza ‏@Joe_Mazza 49m

Nice list of MAC/PC Screencasting tools (free & paid) created “by the room” … #edcampphilly

* Jason Bedford ‏@bedfordtweet 21h

Devices that were once used for fun are now educational tools. How do we balance Stimulating vs Distracting tech? …

* Miguel Guhlin ‏@mguhlin 8m

10 Phrases That Can Solve Any Work Problem  #eclead

* Gary Johnston ‏@GaryJohnston1 1m

18 Myths About Education That Are All Too Easy To Believe … via @teachthought

* Monte Tatom ‏@drmmtatom 16 May

Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies to Enable Digital Learning ~ #fhuedu642 #TETA ~ for @MSMatters followers …

“Google Play for Education Promises What Teachers Have Wanted from Android” #edtech #TETA #fhuedu642 ~ for @MSMatters …

#mschat every Thursday at 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.




Variety of short videos that are useful for parents.

Web Spotlight:

Response: Using — Not Misusing — Ability Groups In The Classroom

By Larry Ferlazzo on May 12, 2013 11:55 PM

The teacher points to a round table in her classroom and tells her students, “Those of you with little or no ability, sit here.” Then she walks across the room and gestures to another table and announces, “Those of you with high ability, sit here.”

It’s very threatening to students to hear it referenced by the teacher, even if the ability is high. If it’s a high ability, students spend the majority of the class trying to protect their status as the one who always gets the right answer or finishes early. If it’s a low ability, students spend the majority of the class avoiding assignments: Why should I attempt this, they think, when it’s just one more proof that I’m stupid?

Ability implies something permanent, unchangeable.

Instead of “ability,” I recommend teachers use, “readiness.” “Readiness” implies a temporary condition: I’m not ready, but I can become so.

Tracking and grouping are contentious topics in many schools, but add my voice to the chorus of teachers who love homogeneous grouping

You read that right: homogeneous, not heterogeneous, grouping is the way to go – as long as it’s temporary and group membership is dynamic, not static.

Homogeneous grouping is effective for students who need a particular need met: They struggle with writing introductions, they need to adjust their lifting technique in the weight room, they still don’t understand stoichiometry,

Heterogeneous groups, on the other hand, also serve positive instructional purposes – fresh ideas, connections, everybody has something to contribute, learning to work with others. Let’s be clear, however: Always placing struggling students with advanced students doesn’t work well for either group.

Dr. Tae, (see his Eastside Prep Ted Talk on comparing classroom teaching to learning a skateboarding trick below) that we don’t really know how long it takes anyone to learn any one standard, nor do we know exactly how long it takes to learn a complex inter-weaving of standards applied in flexible ways.

Grouping students should be done based on what we know about students and how to maximize their learning, not because we were told to group students in a differentiated instruction seminar.

In high school this achieved by students taking advanced coursework. In elementary and middle schools, however, there is not the economy of scale to offer varied and advanced coursework, so special attention should be given to training teachers to provide advanced/accelerated instruction in their own classes as warranted, and to provide advanced students in these grade levels with at least two to three hours a day of advanced curriculum experiences. Less than this amount of time doesn’t meet advanced students’ needs.

In addition, in looking at the research and comparing it to the real classroom experiences, my colleagues and I have found that success in either grouping comes with the teacher’s willingness and preparedness to respond to students’ specific learning needs, i.e. to provide differentiated instruction. Absent that training and willingness, either format is just as inert, or worse, just as damaging.

When wrestling with whether or not to group students, consider these questions:

• Is this the only way to organize students for learning?

• Where in the lesson could I create opportunities for students to work in small groups?

• Would this part of the lesson be more effective as an independent activity?

• Why do I have the whole class involved in the same activity at this point in the lesson?

• Will I be able to meet the needs of all students with this grouping?

• I’ve been using a lot of [insert type of grouping here] lately. Which type of grouping should I add to the mix?–_not_misusing_–_ability_groups_in_the_classroom.html


Standards Based Grading Videos

Lots of videos to help explain Standards based grading. Broke out into Introductory (SBD101), discipline specific, and leadership.

(Also check out video of a presentation delivered at the  MAMSE 2013 Conference).


A Dress-Code Enforcer’s Struggle for the Soul of the Middle-School Girl



I work hard to let my girls know that I respect them for their brains and character—regardless of whether they put their cleavage or the length of their legs on display. But I hate arguing about whether or not a skirt covers a girl as far down as her arms hang.

I hate having to defend my right not to see a girl’s underwear.

When I taught high school, my solution was simple: A box of monstrously ugly, gigantic men’s T-shirts purchased at the local thrift store provided cover-up and sufficient incentive for my female students to keep their upper bodies covered. No muss, no fuss, easy enforcement. They laughed, I laughed.

But middle school? Middle school is a whole other can of worms. Sixth graders are mere children, while eighth graders are burgeoning adults; their minds and bodies change more rapidly than they realize. During these chaotic middle years, they evolve from carefree kids to body-obsessed teenagers almost overnight. One day they can’t pay attention in class because they’re thinking about ponies and their pet guinea pigs, and the next they’re incapacitated by daydreams about the opposite sex.

Dresses that fit up top six weeks ago might not cover burgeoning cleavage today, and skirts that skimmed the knee last month might not hide their underpants during this morning’s math class. Their favorite dresses go from charming to indecent in a blink of an eye.

Perhaps Susan Sarandon said it best in the film version of Little Women (even if she was not quoting Louisa May Alcott’s original Marmee). Meg has just returned from Sally Moffat’s coming-out party, for which she was dressed, made-up, and corseted by the other girls. Laurie is horrified by her cleavage and her drinking, and Meg is embarrassed by her behavior and motivations. Marmee consoles her with the words I yearn to say to my female students, particularly the girls who are just beginning to understand the power of their physicality:

Meg: It was nice to be praised and admired. I couldn’t help it.

Marmee: Of course not. I only care what you think of yourself. If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all you really are.

Time erodes all such beauty, but what it can not diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind. Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you.

Half-Baked Ideas . . .



  • Would you give up a day in summer to learn about Moodle (online learning)?

  • Would you pay for it?

  • What would you want to get out of it?